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Mobile companies take market by design

By Priyanka Joshi in New Delhi
October 09, 2007 09:46 IST
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Designer chic is the latest in mobile phones, with mobile majors such as Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, LG and Samsung, launching 'limited edition' handsets this festive season.

Phone manufacturers, like car companies, are capitalising on the latest trends and working with cool designers as the market for designer phones is big, and getting bigger. Of the 180 million mobile subscribers, young consumers are estimated to account for around 60 per cent (108 million units). It is this consumer group that the mobile vendors are planning to lure with premium, designer or special edition mobile phones, this season.

 According to vendors, handsets increasingly have the same short shelf-life as designer wear and are often seen as trendy personal accessories by consumers.

Taking the lead, Samsung -- along with Giorgio Armani, an  international fashion label -- recently unveiled the new Giorgio Armani-Samsung luxury mobile phones. "Starting with the Giorgio Armani-Samsung mobile phone, we will launch an innovative range of portable consumer electronics such as LCD panels under the Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani and  Armani/Casa labels, based on Armani's design aesthetics and Samsung's cutting edge technology," said a Samsung India spokesperson.

Also, teaming up with with the luxury electronic device brand, Bang and Olufsen, Samsung has launched Serenata, a music mobile phone for those who are willing to pay Rs 69,000 for design. "This is an exclusive product that will be retailed by Bang & Olufsen stores in India, and Armani phones should be launched in Asian markets by early next year," the spokesperson said.

According to IDC, a market intelligence agency, Samsung shipped 37.4 million units in the second quarter, overstepping Motorola. But Motorola is hopeful of making a comeback with special editions in India. In the global markets, the company has launched the Moto RAZR Maxx V6 Ferrari Challenge limited edition, touted as the perfect marriage between the style of Ferrari and the technological innovation of Motorola.

"We could be bringing it to India too," said Llyod Mathias, marketing director, Motorola. The Ferrari Challenge phone is basically a RAZR phone with design enhancements that could please the hardcore Formula One fans. The benefits a consumer gets on this Rs 27,500 phone includes the Ferrari emblem on the exterior, the roar of the Ferrari F1 eight-cylinder engine while switching the handset on or off, images of the Ferrari F430 engine on the mini external display and the image of the Ferrari emblem on a grey Ferrari in the internal display.

"The shift in mobile phone usage has forced handset makers to rev up their design engines," said HTC country manager, Ajay Sharma. With luxury goods in demand, mobile manufacturers are trying to create a premium handset line to make their products unique. "Limited edition or designer phones have a slice of the market otherwise dominated by Nokia," explained Sharma.

The designer collaboration strategy was hard to measure in terms of return on investment. "Considering the incremental advertising and sales promotions, the brands scratch out a marginal profit. But such promotions bring new customers and add to a brand's value," Mathias said.

The luxury unit of Nokia, Vertu, has started selling a phone designed jointly with Ferrari for about $25,400 (approx Rs 1,01,6000) at its stores in London, Paris, Hong Kong and Singapore. The Vertu unit produced the Ascent Ferrari 60 phone to celebrate Ferrari's 60th anniversary. "We worked very closely to develop this limited edition of 60 phones. The phone is inspired by detailing on a number of Ferrari cars," revealed Vertu spokeswoman in an official release.

LG's Prada phone, a result of the Korean giant partnering with the fashion label Prada, will be available in India soon and is expected to retail over Rs 25,000.

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Priyanka Joshi in New Delhi
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